Santa Claus made a surprise pit stop in Etobicoke last week to inspect some toys destined for children from his neck of the woods this holiday season.
The Toys for the North annual toy drive, which this year will see more than $120,000 worth of toys distributed to children in some of Canada’s most remote northern communities, kicked off on Friday at Thomson Terminals on Martin Grove Road – one of Santa’s secret toy warehouses.
Joining the man in red at the event were a few of his helpful elves from the Canadian Toy Association (CTA), the Santa Claus Parade, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) – the partner agencies for the Toys for the North toy drive – and Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health and MP for Santa’s neighbouring riding of Nunavut.
“As a proud northerner and someone who grew up in a remote community in Nunavut, I can truly say what an amazing initiative this is and what a difference it makes to children in the north,” Aglukkaq said, noting that for many living in Nunavut’s most remote communities, the nearest toy store is located several hours away.
“Despite the distance of thousands of kilometres that separate many Canadians from these remote communities, we come together united in spirit and through kind and meaningful gestures such as this. The generous donations today will benefit thousands of families not only in Nunavut, but in northern Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador.”
This year, more than 75 CTA member companies donated toys for the Toys for the North campaign, with nine of those members – Lego, MGA, Tech 4 Kids, Crayola, Hasbro, K’Nex, Mattel, Spin Master, and Schleich – committing to major toy donations ranging from $5,000 to $35,000 in value, said Kerry George, chair of the CTA.
Each and every one of those toys will be wrapped with holiday paper before being delivered to the kids of the north thanks to Hallmark Canada’s generous donation last year of $25,000 worth of wrapping paper, George added. Hallmark also stepped forward again this year to donate $5,000 worth of recordable story books.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to share with you all today that so far, we have raised over a quarter of a million dollars worth of toys (over the last three years) for Toys for the North,” she said, noting that thousands of kids will benefit from the gifts. “We all want to let these kids know that there are people who care about them and remember them during the holiday season. We know these toys will go a long way to help stimulate, educate and amuse these children during the long, cold winter months.”
Anyone wishing to donate new toys to the Toys for the North campaign can do so this year during the Toronto Santa Claus Parade on Sunday, Nov. 18. A booth will be set up outside the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) at Bloor Street West and Avenue Road for the duration of the parade to accept donations, said Parade spokesperson Dianne Schwalm.
“You have no idea the amount of joy all of you bring in helping to bring these toys to areas of Canada that unfortunately cannot access toys,” she said, noting that this year’s tally of $120,000 in toys so far has already far exceeded last year’s total of $80,000, which will only “spread smiles further into the northern territories and most remote corners of our country.”
Last year, some of those communities included Resolute Bay, Grise Fiord, Cape Dorset, Rankin Inlet, Tuktoyaktuk, Port Good Hope, Old Crow, just to name a few, added Insp. Todd Gilmore, the RCMP’s national co-ordinator for Toys for North campaign.
“In 25 years in policing, I can tell you there’s nothing more satisfying than a team that gets results – and the Toys for the North team gets better results each and every year,” he said, adding that, in Nunavut alone, the RCMP delivered toys to 21 of 25 communities – some by snowmobile.
“This year we make a difference in the lives of an ever-increasing group of children that don’t often see this type of generosity. But it’s not just the children that benefit. We as donors and participants get the gift of giving – the warmth of hearts and the lumps in our throats, just imagining those smiles.”